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Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Tuesday, 15 July 2008 13:07 UK

Lord Bingham speaks out

Senior Law Lord Thomas Bingham
BBC Radio 4's Law In Action
Tuesday 15 July 1600 BST
On Radio 4 and online
In a rare interview, Lord Bingham gives forthright opinions on human rights legislation, tackling crime, the role and power of judges and access to justice.

A guardian of liberty, a torch bearer of freedom: that's the way his many admirers regard the 74-year-old Senior Law Lord, Thomas Bingham.

The former Master of the Rolls and Lord Chief Justice is nearing the end of a career in which his influence over the direction of the law of England and Wales has been colossal.

In the interview, Lord Bingham rejects accusations that senior judges are out of touch with public opinion and that they belong to a pro-European liberal elite.

He discusses the rise in the power of judges through the mechanism of judicial review and whether that has led to their politicisation.

There is a firm dismissal of suggestions - including from his colleague Lord Steyn - that judges should have the power to declare parliamentary legislation unlawful.

On terrorism, he directly contradicts Tony Blair's assertion that "the rules of the game have changed."

However, he denies that the Law Lords have valued the rights of terrorist suspects above the safety of the public.

Lord Bingham accepts - and regrets - that during his time as a senior judge there has been a reduction in access to justice for ordinary people. He describes the Legal Aid Act as one of the pillars of the welfare state.

Strikingly, in the week when the government has announced its crime strategy, he warns politicians that legislation and the courts cannot solve the complex social problems that create crime.

A fair trial in Ghana?

Thomas Tichler
Tichler says his case was prejudiced even before it was taken to court
We report on the case of Thomas Tichler, a 57-year-old British banker convicted in Ghana of assaulting a child.

He is appealing against his conviction, arguing that the medical evidence used was unsafe and that the court should not have admitted evidence from the girl, who was only 3 years old at the time.

However, Craig Murray, the former Deputy High Commissioner to Ghana, tells the programme that the Ghanaian criminal justice system is fair.

And the country's Attorney General, Joe Ghartey, argues that Tichler actually received a lower sentence than appropriate for the offence.

Coming Up

As the economic downturn worsens, more and more individuals will be coming to County Courts over home reposessions and other financial claims. We go behind the scenes with the men and women who hear these cases: the district judges.

Contact the programme
If you have thoughts on any of the topics we've covered, or any other legal issues, Law In Action would like to hear from you.

You can contact us by email at or by post at Law In Action, BBC White City, Wood Lane, London W12 7TS or you can call us on 020 8752 5646.

Law In Action is broadcast on Tuesday 15 July 2008 at 1600 BST on BBC Radio 4.

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